Film, List

INSPIRATIONAL FILM SPEECHES:

Just as I recently shared with you some of my preferred study tracks, I thought I would also explore another of my useful study aids: the inspirational film speech.

A quick delve into Youtube and you will find yourself a treasure trove of cinematic brilliance – an inspirational speech is just what you need as you brace yourself to take on a mammoth task, be it a left-to-the-last-minute essay or a long day at work. Here are some of my go-to videos:

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY:

Let me level with you – I’ve never seen Any Given Sunday. I do, however, adore Al Pacino and never has his over-the-top-ness worked so well as it does here.

Inspirational speeches and sports films go hand in hand and the message being put across here is universal – take things one step at a time.

It is also speeches such as these that make you a little glad that the US hasn’t fully adopted the metric system, centimetre by centimetre doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

ROCKY BALBOA:

Rocky Balboa has a quite a few moments of brilliance from Sylvester Stallone, but the speech he gives to his son is the one that hits home hardest. 

Robert “Rocky” Jnr has some problems with living in his fathers shadow, and Stallone pulled the flailing film series out of the gutter with this speech where he tackles his son head on, reminding him that it is up to yourself to take control of your own life.

“You, me or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

Basically, you don’t have anyone else to blame if you don’t get your uni work done.

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION:

Ok so it’s that point in the semester where everything is piling up and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight, but at least you haven’t been falsely imprisoned for a double murder. 

Andy Dufrense managed to maintain hope in the face of some incredibly poor prospects, and this speech is the perfect one to drag you out of the pit if you are feeling sorry for yourself.

Not a straight up speech like the others, but still full to the brim with inspiration.

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE:

This is a film from the guys who make South Park, and I’ve always been an advocate of the fact that underneath the profanity and vulgarity (of which there is plenty) there is almost always a clever and sometimes affecting message. 

Plus, if you don’t buy into any of that you will probably at least get a laugh from it.

LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING:

Pre-battle speeches are a great form of inspiration – also see 300 and Braveheart for some other examples – but this one from Aragorn in the final instalment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy could easily be regarded as the grandaddy of them all. 

It’s fairly short and to the point, but Viggo Mortensen delivers it with such gusto that you will watch it and find yourself fired up and ready to take on the world.

LEGALLY BLONDE:

“You must always have faith in yourself.”

The world of inspirational film speeches is quite a male dominated one, from sports films to battle scenes, but Legally Blonde is a great one in the motivation stakes – if Elle can graduate, so can you.

BRIDGET JONES DIARY:

Less inspirational, more painfully relatable, this one was too funny not to be included. 

Which film speeches inspire you? Let me know in the comments section! 

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List, Music

STUDY TRACKS

Posts here have been few and far between lately as I find myself swamped with uni work in the face of ever looming exam season. I therefore decided to do something slightly different and share with you some of the tracks I listen to when I study, and in the process I hope I can provide some small comfort to any students who may be reading this and in a similar plight.

INSTRUMENTAL/CINEMA INSPIRED:

I find that listening to instrumental music can be effective when studying as it provides less of a distraction that can sometimes be the case when listening to lyrics (or maybe I’m the only one who is so easily distracted?). Some of my favourites include Brian Eno and the Twin Peaks theme song by Angelo Badlamenti. The latter is an excellent blend of uplifting and motivational and is a fantastic pick me up if you find yourself waning in the middle of an all nighter, just don’t let yourself get waylaid to the point of binge watching Twin Peaks, ok?

Being the cinephile that I believe myself to be, I often pick up songs from the films and TV I’ve been watching. This is how I came across Brian Eno, and two of my favourite tracks are from Me, Earl and the Dying Girl and Trainspotting respectively:

Some other cinema inspired study music includes the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, of which my personal favourite is the excellent Concerning Hobbits. But, yet again, I must warn you that opting for film based music comes paired with the temptation to watch the film it comes from, and to resist doing so takes some serious willpower.

Another fantastic track that I recently discovered from the Michael Caine starring Youth was Ceiling Gazing from Mark Kozelek and Jimmy Lavelle. It’s a fantastic, chilled tune which provides a perfect relaxed backdrop to study to.

Also consider checking out the soundtracks from Trainspotting, Trance (anything directed by Danny Boyle, really), The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Guardians of the Galaxy and Pulp Fiction.

MTV UNPLUGGED/ACOUSTIC:

I have already detailed in a past post just how much I love old MTV Unplugged performances, and I never listen to them more than when I am attempting to knuckle down with some work. Some of my favourites include Eric Clapton:

Nirvana:

Alice in Chains:

COUNTRY:

I grew up listening to country music, and my love of the genre endures. I love old school country such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. Such artists are great to study to, and some of my favourite tracks include pretty much anything in Williams’ catalogue, as well as the following:

The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams, a compilation album which saw a variety of artists complete songs left behind following the singers untimely death in 1953, is another one I frequently play as I work. Each song is brilliant in its own way, but my favourite is probably You Know That I Know. Sung by Jack White of The White Stripes, who perfectly encapsulates Williams’ spirit, it is a huge highlight:

Another song I really like is one by Chris Scruggs, an artist who came up and played at the Thomas Fraser Memorial Festival in my home of the Shetland Isles a few years ago. I bought his album, Anthem, and still listen to it regularly. Every track is fantastic, but my favourite by far is Old Souls Like You and Me: 

OTHER:

My taste in music is quite varied, but I find when I’m studying I tend to like grunge, acoustic, country and generally quite relaxed tunes, as I’ve detailed above. Here are some other songs that tend to find their way onto my study playlist:

What tunes do you like to study to? Let me know in the comments section, and happy studying folks! 

 

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Film, List, News, Opinion

OSCARS 2016

So, the Oscar’s are over for another year. The 88th Academy Awards, hosted by Chris Rock, was an eventful night filled with some the usual safe bets and surprises, but the night was owned by Leonardo DiCaprio, who finally brought home an Oscar, simultaneously breaking the hearts of GIF creator’s the world over.  

Rock was a strong host, hitting the ground running with an opening monologue that tackled the #OscarsSoWhite scandal that has dominated awards season head on, introducing the Academy as the “white people’s choice awards.”

Comedy has long been an effective means of exploring serious issues and Rock did so wonderfully. His speech was effective and well needed, addressing the nature of institutionalised racism and also tackling the calls that he himself resign as host, quipping that he didn’t want to “lose another job to Kevin Hart.”

But what about the actual awards? Here is the lowdown of the big wins from the night…

Best Picture:

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source: E Online

Winner: Spotlight

Nominated: The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Bridge of Spies, The Big Short, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Picture was a strong category this year and there have been various favourites over the course of the season, but it was Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight that came out on top.

The film is deserving of the top award – a sobering look at the true life child abuse scandal uncovered by the Boston Globe’s spotlight team in 2001. It would have been a shame to see a film that feels so undoubtedly important go home empty handed, and whilst more understated than some of the nominees – The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road being the obvious examples – the film packs an emotional gut punch.

I was holding out on futile hopes for underdog Brooklyn, my personal favourite from the nominees, but I don’t think there can be any real qualms about Spotlight’s deserved victory.

Best Actor:

Winner: Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)

Nominated: Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)

Could it really be anyone else? The six-time nominated Leonardo DiCaprio has been the hotly tipped favourite to win for months now, and his long-awaited win for his lead role in The Revenant delivered on the promise.

At the end of the day, he deserved it. He should have received one years ago, and The Revenant shows the actor take on yet another challenging role that required him to push himself more than ever before.

His speech was fantastic, a testament to the fact that DiCaprio genuinely seems to be a very humble man. From his shoutout to “my brother in this endeavour” Tom Hardy to the passionate conclusion where he homed in on the climate issues that got him interested in The Revenant, the speech was one of the highlights of the night.

The reception from the crowd spoke volumes – DiCaprio received a standing ovation when he was announced as the winner, and the camera showed the reactions of his comrades as he made his speech. Particularly lovely was the pride on Kate Winslet’s face and the pure unadulterated glee from Hardy.

Had it been another year, I believe Bryan Cranston could have been in with a real chance for his fabulous turn as Dalton Trumbo, but this year was all about DiCaprio, meaning that the strong performances from the other nominees have been somewhat lost in translation.

Best Actress:

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source: E Online

Winner: Brie Larson (Room)

Nominated: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Another fully deserving winner, Brie Larson was incredible in Room. Playing a young woman who was kidnapped as a teenager and has a child (Jacob Tremblay), fathered by her captor, that she attempts to shield from the horrors of their reality, Larson gave without a doubt one of the standout performances of the cinematic year.

Every actress gave a great performance, but it was Larson who stuck out as the most raw and emotional of the lot. Her speech was also hopelessly endearing, as is her cute friendship with young co-star Tremblay.

Best Supporting Actor:

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source: Forbes

Winner: Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)

Nominated: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Probably one of the biggest surprises of the night (to me at least) was Mark Rylance scooping the Best Supporting Actor award in an insanely tough category that included Tom Hardy, Christian Bale and Mark Ruffalo.

Whilst I haven’t seen Bridge of Spies and am sure that Rylance gave a great performance, I can’t help but feel that the award is out of a sense of obligation that any film by Steven Spielberg should not only receive nominations but must win something.

Every actor in this category gave a performance that stood out in some way – Ruffalo and Hardy in particular really could easily have won – but the nostalgic choice would have been to honour Sylvester Stallone for his turn in Creed, 40 years on from his win for the original Rocky.

Stallone delivered his best performance in years and was genuinely as deserving of the award as any other nominee, and the romantic in me would have loved to see him take it home. Congratulations to Rylance, but I feel this may be a choice that will be looked back upon with befuddlement in the future.

Best Supporting Actress:

alicia-vikander-oscars-2016-2

source: Variety

Winner: Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)

Nominated: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

The Danish Girl really wasn’t that good, but without Alicia Vikander I am pretty sure it would be near unwatchable. The drone fest, which does no justice to the interesting characters it is based on, is such because of Tom Hooper’s uninspired direction, but Vikander is extremely strong as Gerda.

I still feel she should have been a contender for Best Actress as she is undoubtedly a main character, but she probably would not have been victorious in that category. Vikander brings nuance and emotion to her performance and the Oscar win is the perfect pay-off to what has been an incredible year for the actress (she also appeared in the critically acclaimed Ex Machina and fun caper The Man From U.N.C.L.E).

I would have liked to see Jennifer Jason Leigh get some love for what was a sensational turn in The Hateful Eight, but it is hard to begrudge Vikander’s thoroughly deserving win (even if the film itself isn’t great).

Best Adapted Screenplay:

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source: NY Times

Winner: The Big Short (Adam McKay and Charles Randolph)

Nominated: Brooklyn (Nick Hornby), Carol (Phyllis Nagy), The Martian (Drew Goddard), Room (Emma Donoghue)

The Big Short has been somewhat divisive, with many of the directorial choices McKay made being what some loved and others reviled about the film, but there aren’t many who can claim that it isn’t well written, condensing immensely complicated financial jargon and presenting it in an interesting way. McKay, who has been known for his comedy work until this point, used his acceptance speech to get political, saying:

“If you don’t want big money to control your government, don’t vote for candidates that take big money from banks, oil or weirdo billionaires.” 

Best Original Screenplay:

spotlight.jpg

source: CBS Local

Winner: Spotlight (Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy)

Nominated: Ex Machina (Alex Garland), Bridge of Spies (Matt Charman, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen), Inside Out (Josh Cooley, Pete Doctor, Meg LeFauve), Straight Outta Compton (Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff)

A well deserved winner, and one of Spotlight’s two wins of six nominations. The strength of the film lay in the writing – the very nature of investigative journalism made it a challenging story to bring to the screen and Singer and McCarthy crafted a script which communicated the story effectively without ever feeling like it was spoon feeding the audience.

The Revenant:

GettyImages-512945760.0.png

source: The Verge

Nominations: 12

Wins: 3 – Best Actor, Best Director, Best Cinematography

Leading the pack with 12 nominations, The Revenant seemed like a sure-thing for winning plenty of awards, but the decision to grant Mad Max: Fury Road the majority of the technical categories meant that the film ended up only taking home three Oscars.

The three wins were fully deserving – Emmanuel Lubezki took home his third consecutive cinematography award following his work on Gravity and Birdman – and high profile. The lack of awards could also be down to the fact that the films Oscar campaign has mostly been focused on finally bagging DiCaprio his (fully deserved) award.

Alejandro G Inarritu won Best Director for the second year running, and whilst The Revenant may have failed to take home Best Picture there is no doubt that his dedication and attention to detail made him fully deserving of the statuette.

Mad Max: Fury Road:

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source: Metro

Nominations: 10

Wins: 6 – Best Costume Design, Best Make-Up and Hair Styling, Best Production Design, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

In terms of number of awards, Mad Max: Fury Road was the winner of the night after receiving a surprising 10 nominations and scooping up six of them. It is great to see the Academy open its mind to the action genre, and whilst I haven’t seen the film it has been lauded as a genre best, so it is fitting that it did so well.

Some will be disappointed that director George Miller didn’t scoop Best Director for his meticulous work, but the gratitude and respect bestowed upon him in the acceptance speeches for each award made it clear how revered he is amongst those who made the film. With such a strong Best Director batch this year it was always going to be difficult to secure a win, but the nomination should not be taken lightly considering worthy candidates such as Todd Hayes didn’t make the cut.

A particular highlight was Miller’s wife Margaret Sevel receiving the Best Editing award and whilst the film may not have scooped any of the bigger awards, it is a positive step to see that the Academy did not ignore a summer blockbuster in the way it has tended to in the past.

Best Original Song:

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source: The Guardian

Winner: Writing’s On The Wall – Spectre (Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes)

While the latest Bond theme wasn’t welcomed by all fans, it shot to the top of the UK charts – a first for a Bond song – but it is hard not to find Sam Smith’s acceptance, which he dedicated to the LGBT community, endearing.

That said, Writing’s On The Wall is a decidedly weak entry into the Bond repertoire (which was going to be the case for anything that came after Adele and Skyfall), so whilst the win was unsurprising it would be a stretch to say it was deserving.

Empty Handed…

The Martian, Carol, Star Wars: The Force AwakensBrooklyn, SicarioSteve Jobs were just some of the films to go home empty handed in what has been, for better or worse, an extremely strong year in cinema. Until next year!

What did you think of the Oscars 2016? Share your comments below! 

 

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Film, List

SUPERBOWL 50 MOVIE TRAILERS:

Eddie the Eagle

Eddie the Eagle looks set to be the modern day Cool Runnings, and that can’t really be a bad thing. Telling the true story of Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, who in 1988 became the first competitor for Great Britain in Olympic Ski Jumping. The film stars Taron Egerton in the title role, with Hugh Jackson co-starring as trainer Bronson Peary.

This spot doesn’t really add much, especially for many UK viewers, instead showing American football players Russell Wilson, Drew Brees and Kurt Warner discuss their reaction to the film after an advanced screening. Unsurprisingly their response is overwhelmingly positive and there is a lot of talk about having the courage to follow your dreams, making it all very inspirational.

It’s not that the spot isn’t good, or that the story isn’t inspirational, but the trailers for the film suggest that it is going to have its tongue firmly in cheek and not take itself too seriously. Director Dexter Fletcher is known for his acting work, whilst it is being produced by the people behind Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), which also starred Egerton.

Eddie the Eagle will be released in the UK on April 1st.

Gods of Egypt

Things are not looking good for Gods of Egypt, which is a shame because it comes from the director behind The Crow (1994). Gerard Butler stars as a dark god seeking to overthrow the Egyptian empire in this pre-historical fantasy that frankly looks like a trainwreck waiting to happen.

Butler looks like he still thinks he is on the set to 300 (2006), Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau shows up briefly and looks like he’d rather be somewhere else, and the CGI looks overblown and unconvincing.

Seriously, does anyone care that this film is coming out? If you do happen to, it’s due for release on the 26th of February.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Given the fact that Tim Burton’s take on Alice in Wonderland, released back in 2010, broke the $1 billion barrier, it should probably be no surprise that a sequel is due out. Despite the return of much of the original cast, James Bobin – known for directing The Muppet movies – has taken over directorial duties.

There isn’t much to suggest that the film will be any better than the forgettable original. Johnny Depp is back into full-scale kook mode after attempting to go straight with last years Black Mass, and whilst the source material is strong it just looks like more overblown nonsense. The use of Alan Rickman, who voices the caterpillar, also feels a bit like a cheap cash in given the actors death last month – not cool, Disney.

Captain America: Civil War

Obviously the 30 second spot for Civil War was going to be one of the highlights of the night, and it delivered on its promise and then some. The quickfire editing packed a lot into the short runtime, giving fans plenty to ponder over ahead of the films release in May.

Probably the highlight was the iron glove – seeing the latest Iron Man technology is always fun, and the fact that he has to use it to stop Bucky from shooting him in the head suggest that the stakes are higher than ever.

We also got an awesome shot of the two teams, and whilst Iron Man’s side definitley have the brawn with War Machine and Black Panther, Captain America’s side could have the cunning with Ant Man and Scarlett Witch. Don’t forget that they also have loose cannon Bucky so anything could happen, but at least we know it won’t be boring.

Deadpool

I already talked about how great Deadpool’s marketing campaign has been in my review, which you can find here, and this Superbowl spot was another highlight. The merc with a mouth casually lampoons football players whilst encouraging audiences to get out and see the movie in an inspired last push of the film.

If you haven’t seen it yet – why are you reading this? Get going!

10 Cloverfield Lane

Cloverfield Lane isn’t something I know much about, other than that producer J.J Abrams has said that it is a “blood relative” to 2008 film Cloverfield, which he also produced. The marketing department in charge of this spot make the most of Abrams insane popularity since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the end of last year, and it is his name that features prominently rather than director Dan Trachtenberg’s.

10 Cloverfield Lane is set for a US release in March.

The Jungle Book

This new full length trailer for the live action adaption of The Jungle Book, which looks set to be the best adaption of a classic Disney animation to come from the studio (that seems to be their new thing at the moment).

If the first trailer was good, this is sensational. The CGI looks top rate and the cast that director Jon Favreau has assembled to voice the animals might be one of the best ensembles of the year – Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, anyone?

We get a proper look at Christopher Walken’s King Louie and it is something to behold. Whilst it could have been easy for Walken’s iconic voice to be a distraction, it actually suits the character perfectly and looks set to be one of the highlights of the film (no small feat with this cast).

The Jungle Book is released worldwide on April 15th 2016.

Jason Bourne

Bourne is back! It’s clear that Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon are keen to make it clear that JASON BOURNE is back, even slapping the name into the title just so we can’t miss it. After Damon departed following the conclusion of the original trilogy in 2007 Jeremy Renner took up the reigns in 2012 with The Bourne Legacy.

The reviews were mixed, a far cry from the love that the original trilogy met, so it’s little wonder the marketing wants to slap us in the face with the fact that this is a return to the glory days. That’s pretty much all it does, with this spot giving little away and instead just trying (and succeeding) to get us all excited about Damon’s return.

Jason Bourne is out in cinemas on July 29th.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

I really wish people would stop paying to watch stuff that Michael Bay has a hand in. Granted Armageddon is a guilty pleasure, but that was released almost 20 years ago and things are past the joking point now.

The Michael Bay produced 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is currently sitting on a stellar 21% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it made over $500 million at the Box Office so a sequel was inevitable (see what I mean – stop paying to see his stuff people).

This spot looks like more of the same, so chances are it will rake in the cash and we will be subjected to many more of these movies. I was never really into TMNT as a child, but it can’t be fun for fans to see what’s come of them now.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows will be out in the US in June.

Independence Day: Resurgence

I didn’t get as excited about the new Independence Day spot because I am yet to see the 1996 original, but there is no doubt that the long-awaited sequel looks pretty epic.

The spot doesn’t give much away, but Jeff Goldblum get’s a cool line (“what goes up, must come down”) and there is almost no chance that people aren’t going to go see this one.

Independence Day: Resurgence is being released in the UK in June, with no set UK release date yet.

X-Men: Apocalypse

Not to be outdone by the juggernaut that is Marvel, Fox also unleashed a teaser for the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse. The film is set to close the trilogy that brought the series back from the brink (the brink being The Last Stand and the awful Wolverine Origins movie).

Bryan Singer is back in the directors chair once more and Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence are all back in their roles as the younger versions of Magneto, Professor X and Mystique respectively.

The teaser does precisely that, giving an enticing look into the plot which appears to see Oscar Isaac’s Apocalypse unleash the end of the world on us humans. It looks set to be everything that the final part of a trilogy should be, with higher stakes, a bigger threat and a whole lot of action.

If anyone can do it, it’s Singer – it’s hilarious how he managed to wrangle the series out of seemingly endless plot holes with Days of Future Past, and if he can do that, he can do anything.

The Secret Life of Pets

Universal have long played second fiddle to Pixar, the daddy of modern animation, but there’s a good chance they don’t really mind since they made over a $1 billion last summer with Minions. But the things is, The Secret Life of Pets has a lot of promise.

Much like Toy Story, it’s a simple concept – what do our pets do when we’re not home? Pair the intriguing premise with a hilarious voice cast that includes the comedic talents of Louis C.K and Kevin Hart and they could really be onto something special.

The marketing material, this spot included, has focused on a series of skits and a coherent plot isn’t yet obvious and the film will probably sink or swim on this – as funny as the sketch like material is, it probably won’t carry an entire film.

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Film, List, News, Opinion

OSCARS 2016: WHO WILL TAKE HOME BEST PICTURE?

The Best Picture race is closer than ever this year. The 88th Academy Awards will take place on the 28th of February, hosted by Chris Rock, and it is one of the tightest competitions in years.

Chris-Rock-Promo

Oscars.go.com

From surprise nominations (Mad Max – the Academy very rarely acknowledges action) to controversial snubs (the #OscarsSoWhite scandal, but also Todd Haynes’ Carol among others), it’s been a dramatic year, but which film is going to be crowned Best Picture?

With just over two weeks to go, a clear cut winner has made usually itself clear by now, but with the bookies favourite changing like the weather, it’s hard to predict who will come out on top.

Here are the nominees and a breakdown of their chances…

THE BIG SHORT:

Directed: Adam McKay

Starring: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt

Other nominations: 4 – Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing

Bookies odds: 11/10

Adam McKay’s take on the housing crisis is the current favourite to win after scooping the Best Picture prize at the PGA Awards.

The PGA has predicted the Best Picture Oscar winner for the past eight years, so things are looking pretty promising for the film, which was previously an underdog.

It’s the sort of film that falls into the ‘love it or hate it’ category, but I think it is wholly deserving of its nomination.

McKay, best known for his comedy, brings a surprising amount of dramatic heft, particularly from Carrell, who is the closest the film has to a moral compass – this is a film about guys who made money off of the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, remember.

Will it win? It really is hard to tell. The PGA win is strongly in its favour – films such as Birdman (2015) and The Hurt Locker (2010) only became front-runners (and eventual Oscar winners) after the PGA’s after all.

The Big Short would be a perfectly deserving winner, but whilst it has more chance than some of the true underdogs, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ultimately goes home with one prize in the form of Best Editing.

Read my review of The Big Short here.

BRIDGE OF SPIES:

Directed: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance

Other nominations: 5 – Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Sound Mixing

Bookies odds: 125/1

It feels like Bridge of Spies has almost slipped through the cracks in the frenzy of this years Oscar buzz.

Directed by the living legend that was Spielberg, co-written by the Coen Brothers and starring America’s favourite Everyman Tom Hanks, on paper the film seems like a ready-made classic, instead it is a good, solid entry into Spielberg’s filmography, but it fails to reach the heights of his most beloved work.

It is basically a given that anything Spielberg makes will scoop up a few nominations – he is, as I said, a living legend, but the chances of Bridge of Spies taking home the Best Picture prize are next to non-existent.

Other than Rylance’s nomination in the Best Supporting Actor category, the film hasn’t picked up nominations in any of the big hitters – even Tom Hanks failed to get a nod due to the fierce competition for Best Actor.

That said, never underestimate the Academy’s ability to get it wrong – Crash robbed Brokeback Mountain of the prize back in 2005 in one of the more recent and dramatic examples – so never say never, especially with a Spielberg film.

BROOKLYN:

Directed: John Crowley

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Domhnall Gleeson

Other nominations: 2 – Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay

Bookies odds: 100/1

If it were up to me, Brooklyn would take home Best Picture. It would also be nominated for a lot more than just three Oscars (three? come on!). Without a doubt my favourite film in the race, Brooklyn is a beautiful period drama about an Irish immigrant.

Everything about the film is subtle, from Ronan’s pitch perfect central performance to the narrative, and it won’t be for everyone, but I think it is an understated masterpiece.

But enough gushing, is it going to win Best Picture? Alas, it is very much in the underdog position at the moment. The film opened to critical acclaim and Ronan has received a fair few awards for her work, but the buzz has somewhat died since.

Pair that with the fact that it only received three nominations, which didn’t include Best Director, and Brooklyn’s chances are pretty low.

Hopefully it’ll take home one of its other nominations, with Ronan and screen-writer Nick Hornby both fully deserving, plus it would be a real shame to see the film go home empty handed.

Read my review of Brooklyn here.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD

Directed: George Miller

Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Other nominations: 9 – Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing

Bookies odds: 40/1

With 10 nominations, Mad Max: Fury Road was without a doubt the biggest shock when the nominations were announced last month.

The Academy is notorious for snubbing blockbusters and action flicks, meaning that George Miller’s latest installment in the Mad Max franchise, whilst garnering critical acclaim, was almost sure to be excluded from the Best Picture line up.

It is great to see the inclusion of the film on the list, and it has cleaned up in technical nominations, which seems fair considering it has been placed on a pedestal by many as one of the best action films ever committed to the screen.

I can’t really comment from a personal perspective, having never seen the film or any of the others in the Mad Max franchise, but I guess that the Academy probably won’t go so far as to award it Best Picture – they probably feel they have ‘done enough’ by nominating it.

However it is a pretty open race this year, and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise for a film with so many other nominations take home the big prize, though I’m willing to bet it’ll split the technical prizes with The Revenant.

THE MARTIAN:

Directed: Ridley Scott

Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain

Other nominations: 6 – Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing

Bookies odds: 33/1

The Academy may be depressingly predictable in many ways (here’s Kate Winslet explaining how in Extras), but they have surprised everyone by including not one but two blockbusters in the 2016 Best Picture line up.

The Martian is a glorious return to form for Scott after a few middling flicks, and it is fantastic to see that the 78 year old veteran filmmaker is still capable of making excellent films.

Matt Damon carries the film, which tells the story of an astronaut who is assumed dead and left on Mars, and is fully deserving of his Best Actor nomination, but the real star of The Martian is Scott’s direction.

His depiction of Mars is a visual treat, and he veers away from traditional scoring and employs a disco soundtrack, which only makes the film stand out more.

If it were any other year, The Martian would be a real contender across the board, but with the technical mastery of The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as a packed Best Actor roster, the chances of any big wins are significantly reduced.

Here’s hoping the aforementioned films won’t totally dominate and The Martian will take home a statuette – though I’m pretty sure it won’t be Best Picture.

THE REVENANT:

Directed: Alejandro G. Inarritu

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domnhall Gleeson, Will Poulter

Other nominations: 11 – Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing

Bookies odds: 4/1

It was going to take something pretty bad to tarnish Alejandro G. Inarritu’s reputation after he won Best Picture and Best Director for his work on the critically adored Bridman at last years ceremony.

He has arguably topped himself with The Revenant, an intense, technical masterpiece in film-making. There is a real danger of the director becoming over-hyped, but credit where credit is due – The Revenant is excellent.

The film scooped the most nominations with a total of 12, so the chances of it taking home a lot of them are almost a given. It’s long been one of the favourites to win, but with such a strong selection it won’t be an easy sway.

Leonardo DiCaprio also looks set to finally win Best Actor, which he deserves, but which will also spell the sad end of some pretty funny GIFS and memes (hence why I had to include some of my favourites here, we could be running out of time people).

*Brief interlude for funny Leonardo DiCaprio GIFS and memes*

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An article by The Independent is also suggesting that Tom Hardy’s lack of appearances in the films Oscar campaign may also be hurting the films chances – it’s idealistic to assume that the prize is based on artistic merit, after all.

Birdman also only took home four of its nine nominations last year, so there’s a chance the insane hype might fail to translate into Oscar wins.

The Revenant is one of the most likely candidates to take home Best Picture, with it’s real competition coming in the form of The Big Short and Spotlight.

ROOM:

Directed: Lenny Abrahamson

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay

Other nominations: 3 – Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay

Bookies odds: 33/1

Room is utterly haunting – telling the story of a young woman who was abducted and is forced to live out her existence in a small room, with only her son, fathered by her captor, keeping her going – it is a far from an easy watch.

Larson is fantastic, anchoring the film and in a Best Actress worthy performance, but the film generally falls into the same category as Brooklyn in that it doesn’t have many nominations under its belt.

With multiple nominations comes increased momentum, and Room just doesn’t have that – it’s a great film that is hugely deserving of any plaudits, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to do well on Oscars night.

Also going against the film is that the nominations it does have are in extremely tough categories – Larson has a real chance with Best Actress, but so does Ronan (Brooklyn) and Cate Blanchett (Carol), meaning there is no clear cut favourite.

Room is the sort of film that could have done very well if it were a different year, but unfortunately for all those involved it’s 2016 and it’s probably going to be (arguably unfairly) overlooked.

SPOTLIGHT:

Directed: Tom McCarthy

Starring: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery

Other nominations: 5 – Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Screenplay

Bookies odds: 6/5

Spotlight’s Oscar campaign has been a tale of highs and lows – it was a bit of a slow burner, but it slowly built up to becoming favourite to win, but then the hype died down and has been replaced by The Big Short.

The film, which focuses on the Boston Globe’s investigation into child molestation in the cities Catholic Church, has received critical acclaim for its ensemble cast and accurate portrayal of events.

I really enjoyed Spotlight, and I think the attention to detail McCarthy has put into recreating the story is impressive. I was also very taken with the cast, particularly Mark Ruffalo, who has been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category, and Michael Keaton, who arguably also should have received a nomination.

If the awards had been held a month ago, Spotlight would almost certainly have scooped Best Picture. Now? I’m not so sure – It’s in my top three favourites to win alongside The Big Short and The Revenant, but whether it will come out top in the extremely close race will only become clear on the night.

Read my review of Spotlight here.

Which film do you think will take home the Best Picture Oscar this year? Let me know in the comments section!

Check out the trailers for the Best Picture nominees here:

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Film, List

FEBRUARY IN FILM

A lowdown of the films hitting UK cinemas this month…

Dad’s Army

downloadDirected: Oliver Parker

Starring: Catherine Zeta Jones, Bill Nighy, Michael Gambon, Toby Jones, Tom Courtenay, Sarah Lanarcshire, Mark Gatiss

Will it be good?: Based on the beloved BBC sitcom of the same name, which ran from 1968 to 1977 and depicted the British Home Guard during WWII, the big-screen remake of Dad’s Army has a solid cast in its favour. UK acting veterans including Bill Nighy and Michael Gambon make up an ensemble cast which also features Inbetweeners star Blake Harrison. Director Oliver Parker and writer Hamish McColl have previously collaborated on 2011’s Johnny English Reborn, whilst the latter also penned Mr Bean’s Holiday (2007). With some proven talent both behind and in front of the camera, Dad’s Army looks set to be an enjoyable adaption for anyone fond of the original series, though the challenge comes in creating something that strikes the right balance between nostalgia and something new. The characters from the sitcom are also relatively iconic, leaving big shoes to fill for the actors who are taking on the roles – though their combined comedic talents suggest the new cast should be up to the challenge.

Goosebumps

goosebumps_xlg-655x1024Directed: Rob Letterman

Starring: Jack Black, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush, Amy Ryan, Ryan Lee, Jillian Bell

Will it be good?: Based on the famous children’s book series by R.L Stein, Goosebumps is the latest vehicle for Jack Black. Director Rob Letterman has worked on the likes of Monsters Vs Aliens (2009) and Shark Tale (2005), as well as the critically reviled Jack Black starring Gulliver’s Travels (2010), suggesting a mixed bag that makes it hard to tell if this Goosebumps adaption will be successful. Then of course there is the issue of Jack Black, who’s back catalogue is so inconsistent it is almost impossible to predict what direction his latest venture will go in. The Goosebumps series has a whole array of different stories which would look good on the big screen, and the US reviews (the film was released last October stateside, making most of the Halloween market) suggest that the director has made the most of the selection. Critical reception in the US has also been surprisingly positive, suggesting that both Letterman and Black may have somewhat redeemed themselves whilst doing the Goosebumps series proud.

Point Break

pntbr_poster4Directed: Ericson Core

Starring: Edgar Ramirez, Luke Bracey, Ray Winstone

Will it be good?: Kathryn Bigelow’s 1991 film Point Break starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves is looked back upon as a fun action classic – why Ericson Core has felt the need to remake it is something we will never know. The film has opened to negative reviews in the US, which comes as little surprise based on the trailers, which suggest that the film leans heavily on 3D to provide shallow thrills and, well, that;s about it. For anyone who wants gravity defying action with little substance, Point Break is the film for you. Critic reviews has summed the film up as a shallow and unnecessary remake of Bigelow’s much-loved original, and whilst Edgar Ramirez’s career is looking promising with his recent supporting role in Joy, it doesn’t look like he is enough to save this from becoming a forgettable bargain bin flick.

Trumbo

trumbo-poster-bryan-cranston-2Directed: Jay Roach

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Louis C.K

Will it be good?: Since he broke bad and forever shook of the image of loveable buffoon Hal in Malcolm in the Middle, Bryan Cranston has been a sought after property in Hollywood, and he has earned himself a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his leading role in Trumbo. Based on the book Dalton Trumbo by Bruce Cook, the film tells the true story of the blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter. It’s an immediately interesting premise – the paranoia of McCarthyism is an inherently interesting concept, as dark as it was – and Cranston is sure to be magnificent in the lead role. Pair that with a strong supporting cast that includes the likes of Diane Lane, Helen Mirren and John Goodman and it is clear that this is a film with plenty of star power behind it. Jay Roach is best known for his work on comedies including the Austin Powers films and the first two installments in the Meet the Parents franchise. Much like the case with Adam McKay and The Big Short, Trumbo’s success will be largely based on Roach’s ability to balance comedic moments with the dramatic heft required to tell this story.

Deadpool

download (1)Directed: Tim Miller

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Moerna Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J Miller

Will it be good?: Everything appears to be in place and it looks like fans are finally getting the Deadpool film they have been seeking so desperately ever since the cult favourite character was butchered in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Test footage and trailers suggest that things are finally being done right – writers Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese have a strong back catalogue that includes the critically adored Zombieland (2009). The film is the directorial debut of Tim Miller, who is best known for his work as the creative director on opening sequences of films such as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013). This suggests Miller has a real creative flair – but can a first time director carry the weight of expectations from fans who have been disappointed before? Ryan Reynolds is back in the role, and it is clear that the charismatic leading man is determined to nail it second time around, so the chances of the film totally missing the mark are low.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

download (2)Directed: Burr Steers

Starring: Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcoate, Douglas Booth, Suki Waterhouse, Matt Smith, Lena Heady

Will it be good?: Probably one of the weirdest films to be coming out this month, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is based on the parody novel by Seth Grahame-Green, which is based on the famous Jane Austin novel. A comedy horror which envisions the Victorian era as one that is in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, the film won’t appeal to everyone. That said, it has a decent cast attached to it with the likes of former Doctor Who star Matt Smith and Game of Thrones alumni Lena Heady. It’s a fun twist on a classic novel and it will be fun to see the prim propriety of the era juxtaposed with gory zombie horror – think Sean of the Dead (2004) set a century earlier. Burr Steers is best known for his teen comedy 17 Again (2009), so it is hard to tell how he will handle the horror elements, but fans but fans of the book are likely to enjoy this thoroughly different release.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip

alvin-road-chip-poster-2Directed: Walt Becker

Starring: Jason Lee, Tony Hale, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Justin Long, Jesse McCartney

Will it be good?: There’s a good chance that, like all previous Alvin and the Chipmunk movies, this is a film that most likely won’t appeal to anyone over the age of five. Why do they keep making these movies? The film opened in the US at the end of last year to resoundingly negative reviews (big surprise there) and it has also been nominated for a total of three Razzie awards, including nominations for the voice work of Jason Lee and Kaley Cuoco. Hopefully this will be enough to bring the sorry franchise to a halt – though the fact that it has managed to make it to a fourth film suggests that this might not be the end.

A Bigger Splash

a-bigger-splashDirected: Luca Guadagnino

Starring: Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, Dakota Johnson

Will it be good?: The latest film from Italian director Luca Guadagnino – frequent collaborator with Tilda Swinton – looks set to be interesting. Mixing established talents such as Swinton and Ralph Fiennes with the rising talents of Matthias Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson, the film is loosely based on 1969 film La Piscine. The erotic thriller was released in Italy last November to generally positive reviews and the trailers suggest it will be an edgy affair. The trailers look like Fiennes in particular is having the time of his life and with such a heady mix of talent, A Bigger Splash is sure to be an intense affair.

Jem and the Holograms

JemposterDirected: Jon M Chu

Starring: Audrey Peeples, Stefanie Scott, Aurora Perrineau, Hayley Kiyoka, Ryan Guzman, Molly Ringwald, Juliette Lewis

Will it be good?: Based on the 1980’s animated TV series, Jem and the Holograms tells the story of a young singer who becomes an overnight Youtube sensation. Nashville actress Aubrey Peeples is in the lead role, and 1980’s sweetheart also shows up for a rare supporting gig. Jon M Chu’s previous work includes a couple of the Step Up sequels and Justin Beiber film Never Say Never (2011). It has taken the film months to make it to the UK after it opened in the US to negative reivews. The trailer doesn’t offer anything particularly promising and it appears that at best the film is a paint by numbers musical drama that is unlikely to appeal to anyone outside of its tween target audience.

Concussion

concussion2015Directed: Peter Landesman

Starring: Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Luke Wilson

Will it be good?: Concussion tells the real life story of Dr.Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian forensic pathologist who went up against the NFL after discovering a disorder known as ‘Game Brain’. It is Peter Landesman’s second film and has Will Smith in the lead role, with a strong supporting cast that includes Alec Baldwin. Reviews in the US have been positive, with Smith in particular being singled out for his strong central performance (there have been comments that he may have been snubbed by the Academy and is deserving of a Best Actor nomination). From my point of view, Smith hasn’t been at the top of his game for a long time and his performances as of late are increasingly reminiscent of clutching at straws, but it seems like Concussion is an interesting role for the actor and could be a return to Smith at his best. With the #OscarsSoWhite scandal continuing to rage on it will be interesting to see if his performance lives up to the hype.

Zoolander 2

zoolander-2-posterDirected: Ben Stiller

Starring: Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Benedict Cumberbatch

Will it be good?: Comedy sequels are notoriously hard to get right – most fall into the trap of becoming a blow by blow repeat of the original (The Hangover 2 being a prime example), whilst the other danger is being unable to live up to the often insane levels of hype (Dumb and Dumber To, coming in over a decade after the original, was blighted by this issue from the start). Zoolander 2 has arguably already succumbed to the latter issue, but who knows if it will be able to deliver. Ben Stiller is back in the directors chair and titular role, and just like the first installment he has an all-star cast behind him. Establishing a new story whilst remaining faithful to fans of the original will be the biggest challenge, but there is no doubt that people will turn out to see the long awaited sequel.

The Finest Hours

TheFinestHoursTheatricalPosterDirected: Craig Gillespie

Starring: Chris Pine, Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana

Will it be good?: Telling the true story of the 1952 US coastguard rescue of the 55 Pendleton during a huge storm, The Finest Hours looks set to be a good old fashioned rescue story. Craig Gillespie is best known for much smaller scale films including Lars and the Real Girl (2007) and the 2011 Fright Night remake, so it will be interesting to see how he handles film-making on a larger scale. The film boasts an impressive cast including Chris Pine and Casey Affleck, but there is plenty of room to fall into done to death cliche with a story of this nature. The film has been produced by Disney and is set to be released in both 3D and IMAX formats, which suggest that it will be family friendly and attempting to cash in on the sea-faring visuals. It is likely that The Finest Hours will be as enjoyable as it is unoriginal.

How to be Single

How-To-Be-Single-Movie-PosterDirected: Christian Ditter

Starring: Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann

Will it be good?: How to be Single is the latest Drew Barrymore produced romantic comedy from the writer behind numerous films including He’s Just Not That Into You (2009). The film is based on the book by Liz Tuccillo, who also wrote self-help book, you guessed it, He’s Just Not That Into You. The film’s cast includes rising star and 50 Shades of Grey (2015) actress Dakota Johnson, alongside Rebel Wilson of Pitch Perfect fame and Leslie Mann. It looks like a fairly straightforward film about a girl who is faced with a break-up and must be taught by her friends how to deal with the single life. The film looks set to be decidedly average, but will be sure to be a fun Friday night movie.

Grimsby

3351_the-brothers-grimsby_2DD7Directed: Louis Leterrier

Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson, Isla Fisher

Will it be good?: The latest comedy vehicle for Sacha Baron Cohen will see him play a typical Englishman from Grimsby, who finds his long-lost twin (Mark Strong), a special agent. Baron Cohen is a divisive comic – whilst some find his various characters, which include Borat (2006), Bruno (2009) and The Dictator (2012), hilarious, whilst others find him tedious and offensive. This latest film looks like more of the same and is therefore likely to appeal to the actors existing fans without attracting many new ones. Louise Leterrier is known for his work on the first two Transporter films (2002/05) and The Incredible Hulk (2008), so he is at least likely to produce well-handled action scenes, but don’t expect much in the way of laughs (if it’s not obvious, I’m not a huge Baron Cohen fan).

The Forest

download (3)Directed: Jason Zada

Starring: Natalie Dormor, Taylor Kinney

Will it be good?: A supernatural horror starring Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormor, The Forest has received generally negative reviews since it was released in the US. It is Jason Zada’s directorial debut and horror is a hard genre to stand out in, though Dormor is somewhat of a rising star with her supporting role in the latter films of the Hunger Game franchise and her performance has received praise in spite of the lackluster reception to the rest of the film. The Forest will be a welcome outing to horror films, with January being a somewhat horror-free month for cinema released, but the chances of it being remembered as a genre classic is somewhat low.

Secret in Their Eyes

download (4)Directed: Billy Ray

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofer, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts

Will it be good?: A remake of the 2009 Argentine film of the same name, which is based on the 2005 novel, Secret in Their Eyes boasts an all star cast and boasts a director and co-writer who’s previous credits include penning The Hunger Games (2012) and Captain Philips (2013), the latter of which won him an Oscar. This all points towards a strong final product, but the film has so far been met with mixed reviews from critics. That said, it is hard not to take note of such a strong cast and it looks like Secret in Their Eyes could be a more than passable thriller.

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Film, List

JANUARY IN FILM – TOP 5 MOVIE QUOTES

My top five pieces of dialogue from January’s cinema offerings. 

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The most tedious month of the year is finally over. I’ve been pretty active in my cinema-going this month and have managed to see a total of ten different films, ranging from the average to the awards-worthy. Here are my five favourite quotes that have stuck with me most from this months viewing…

“That’s the thing with old people. You can push them down the stairs and pretend it was an accident, but you can’t just shoot ’em”

– Kurt Russell’s bounty hunter John Ruth says it like it is in The Hateful Eight

“He’s so transparent in his self interest that I kinda respect him” 

– Mark Buam (Steve Carrell) assesses sleazy banker Jared Venett (Ryan Gosling) in The Big Short

“Are you four?”

– Steve Carrell gives everyone Michael Scott flashbacks in The Big Short

“They knew and they let it happen….It coulda been you, it coulda been me, it coulda been any of us!” 

– Mark Ruffalo shows why he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his turn as journalist Michael Rezendes in Spotlight

“Such tremendous effort…for such modest returns” 

– Michael Caine gives his best performance in years as a retired composer in Youth

What are your top quotes for the month? Let me know in the comments section!

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List, Television

TOP 5 CURRENT US SITCOMS

The 5 US sitcoms you should be watching right now.

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5. Unbreakable Kimmy Shmidt

rawIt won’t be to everyone’s taste, but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is a fantastic Netflix sitcom that stands out from the majority of other shows due to its premise. Created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (AKA the minds behind the brilliant 30 Rock, which ran from 2006 to 2013), the show begins with 29 year old Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) being rescued from a bunker where she has spent 15 years in captivity after Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) led her and three other women to believe that they had survived the end of the world. Becoming known as one of the “Indiana mole women”, Kimmy decides to break free and start a new life in New York City, despite not knowing much about the 21st century world.

The fact that Fey and Carlock have taken a decidedly dark premise and made it into something as bright and cheerful as this show is a credit to them, but even moreso to Kemper for making the character of Kimmy so endearingly likable – she feels like an extension of her role as Erin in NBC’s The Office, which can only be a good thing. The cast is brilliant in that it moves away from the typical group of friends who met in high school/college hanging out and instead presents an eclectic range of people who appeared in each others lives randomly, from Kimmy’s broadway yearning roomate Titus (Tituss Burgess) or eccentric landlady Lillian (Carol Kane), to the ever hilarious Jane Krakowski as a wealthy Manhattanite.

Whilst the show could perhaps become a little grating, there is no denying that it is totally unique and hilariously funny – something which has seen Netflix renew it for a third season before the second has even begun streaming (season 2 is set to make an appearance on the 15th of April), and the fact that it was nominated for a total of seven Emmy awards. If you haven’t already seen it, what are you waiting for – all 13 episodes of season 1 are available on Netflix right now!

4. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

tumblr_ndwxelm1Cg1qdt9vko1_400Another show that is an acquired taste, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a cult hit that has been broadcast on US network FX, then sister channel FXX, since 2005 (it is available to stream on Netflix for those of us in the UK). Now in it’s 11th season and renewed for a 12th, the sitcom was developed by Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton, who both star as members of the ‘gang’ that the plot revolves around.

Described as “Seinfeld on crack”, the show takes the typical ‘group of friends hanging out’ trope and flips it beyond recognition. Revolving around the exploits of a group of people who own a bar – Mac (Rob McElhenney), Charlie (Charlie Day), Dennis (Glenn Howerton) and his twin sister Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and from season 2 onwards the twins ‘father’ Frank (Danny DeVito) – the show is about as far removed from Friends (1994-2004) as you can get.

It would be a stretch to describe the gang as friends – co-dependent alcoholics, sure, but friends is probably too light a term. The show really hit its stride with the inclusion of DeVito from the second season, and there is no issue safe from the shows satirical gaze. Taboo topics are the norm – it’s almost like a live-action South Park (1997-) at times – meaning that the show is not one for the easily offended.

The comedy is derived from the fact that the characters are all hugely self centered and damaged in their own ways – from Charlie’s anger issues and glue sniffing to Dennis’ increasingly obvious sociopathic tendencies – and it is amazing that they can continue to come up with such inventive ideas after over a decade. In season 7 episode The Gang Gets Trapped, Dennis perfectly sums up the shows premise in one of this trademark rants:

“We immediately escalate everything to a ten…somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone’s on the gas, nobody’s on the brakes, nobody’s thinking, everyone’s just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another. Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve broken into somebody’s house – and the homeowner is home.”  

If you like your comedy jet black and packed with too many pop culture references to count, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is the show for you.

3. Broad City

746b285916fc5f9e55c0b334e38d7a39Broad City is a show that, since it began airing on Comedy Central in 2014, has drawn endless comparison to Lena Dunham’s Girls (2012-). Whilst both tell the story of women in their twenties living in New York City, the two shows are in fact very different beasts – each with their own distinct strengths.

Starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jackson as fictionalised versions of themselves, Broad City began life as a web-series before being picked up by Comedy Central. It is due to begin its third season, with the second in particular garnering critical acclaim. Glazer and Jackson met whilst taking classes at the famous Upright Citizens Brigade, and no other than Amy Poehler took notice of the web incarnation of the show, now serving as an executive producer on the series.

First and foremost, Broad City is hilarious. Charting the exploits of self-centred, work-allergic stoner Ilana and wannabe illustrator Abbi as they get themselves into all sorts of weird but strangely relatable situations is a mine of comedy potential , and the duos writing is consistently strong. The cast is rounded out by some eccentric supporting players, including Ilana’s lover Lincoln (Hannibal Burgess) and Abbi’s roomate’s oddball boyfriend Bevers (John Gemberling).

Broad City also manages to be progressive at the same time as funny – usually the best sort of progressive, really. In an article for the Wall Street Journal, the show was described as “sneak attack feminism” and Jackson was quoted as saying:

“If you watch one of out episodes there’s not a big message, but if you watch all of them, I think, they’re empowering to women.” 

And she’s right. Watch one episode of Broad City and you will be treated to some real comedy gold – a favourite of mine includes Ilana trying to track down a TV remote she lost months ago in order to cancel a subscription – but if you watch the entire series, you will be treated to a show where women do whatever the hell they want, whenever the hell they want (and they don’t answer to anyone – man or woman). Roll on season 3!

2. Brooklyn Nine Nine

130d218593d8b917c20a9dc277f87818Brooklyn Nine Nine is without a doubt one of the best sitcoms around at the moment. Currently airing its third season on Fox in the US (catch it on E4 in the UK) and featuring an eclectic ensemble cast, the show has received critical acclaim since it began airing in 2013.

Essentially a fusion of two arguably tired genres – the cop show and the sitcom – Brooklyn Nine Nine has taken the best from both concepts and created something fresh and hilarious. With an ensemble cast that includes Andy Samberg, Chelsea Peretti, Terry Crews and Andre Braugher, the show manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of modern sitcoms and uses the police precinct setting to generate totally different storylines.

The show hit the ground running and it has only been up from there, with season three shaking up the status quo and showing that creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur aren’t afraid to mix up the dynamics. Goor and Schur are known for their work on the equally acclaimed Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) and Schur also worked on the US version of The Office (2005-2013), so there is no doubt that the pair know what they are doing when it comes to hilarious sitcoms.

The writing is fast paced and hilarious, and the workplace setting means that, much like the success of Parks and Recreation and The Office, personal lives do not factor in so much as to be overbearing. There is plenty of workplace action, and the characters all have totally different backgrounds, with the contrasts and relationships between them driving the comedy.

There’s been no word yet on a fourth season renewal, but Fox would be deluded to cancel a show that has been so well received and seems to only be getting better with time – expect to be seeing plenty from the Nine Nine in years to come.

1. New Girl

giphyWhilst the rest of the shows on this list are great because they generally invert or avoid sitcom tropes and stereotypes, New Girl is included because it not only embraces them but pulls them off well. The Fox show began airing in 2011 and is now in it’s fifth season. Originally based around the Zooey Deschanel as Jess, a teacher in her early thirties who moves into a loft with three men – Nick (Jake Johnson), Shmidt (Max Greenfield) and Winston (Lamorne Morris) – after a messy break-up, showrunner Elizabeth Merriweather soon saw the potential in her cast and established New Girl as an ensemble that also included Jess’ best friend CeCe (Hannah Simone).

The tropes are all there – the will they/won’t they couple (two actually – but recent events have established an imminent Ross and Rachel/Monica and Chandler situation), the group of friends hanging out, the bromance etc, but when it’s done this well, they don’t seem so tired (look to The Big Bang Theory for a modern example of when the tropes don’t work). Unlike most of the entries on this list, New Girl is the sort of show that has the universal appeal of Friends – it’s a simple concept made great by a brilliant cast – special mention to Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield in particular.

One thing that does set the show apart is that when we first meet the characters they are already in their early thirties – most sitcoms begin with young fresh faced twenty-somethings – meaning they have already lived a lot. This provides a whole new take on comedy – these are characters who are falling in love, but not for the first time, and they are moving up in the career ladder rather than starting out on the bottom rung. Whilst only a small deviation from the classic sitcom set-up, when paired with the fantastic writing it’s enough to set the show apart from the rest.

New Girl is available in the UK on Netflix (seasons 1-3) and on E4.

What are your favourite US sitcoms currently airing? Let me know in the comments section!

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Film, List

TOP 5 80’S TEEN MOVIES:

The top five teen movies of the 1980’s (AKA films made by John Hughes) 

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The 1980’s looked like a great time to be alive – despite only being born in the middle of the 90’s, I have always had a soft spot for the decade that came before, and this is largely down to the fact that 1980’s films are THE BEST.

Seriously, films made in the 1980’s are generally amazing, unique and definitely not the sort of thing that would get made today. Even though they were made before I was even born, I find characters in these movies to be much more relatable than most of what I see on screen today (spending my early teens wishing to be Hilary Duff did not make me Hilary Duff). One of the crown jewels of the film industry in this era was the teen movie genre, which had its very own brat pack and was helmed by the likes of John Hughes (how a grown man had such a keen insight into the inner psych of teens is a mystery).  This was a decade that graced the world with everything from Wall Street (1987) to Ghostbusters (1984), but I maintain that teen movies from the 1980’s cannot be beaten. This is not a takedown of Mean Girls (2004) or any other post-80’s teen movie, but instead a testament to the era where Molly Ringwald knew what was up.

Trying to compile just five of the best teen movies from the 1980’s proved to be a hugely difficult task, but here it is for you to enjoy – let me know if you agree in the comments section!

Honourable mention….

Heathers (1988)

Director: Michael Lehmann

Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannon Doherty, Lisanne Falke, Kim Walker

heathers01_zps9cb90f94I’m just putting this out there – Heathers is one of my favourite movies of all time. The jet black satire that put Winona Ryder on the map is, in my opinion, one of the most hilarious and incredibly ahead of it’s time films to emerge from the 1980’s, and the likes of Jawbreaker (1999) and Mean Girls outright wouldn’t exist without it. The film tells the story of Veronica (Winona Ryder), a teenager who is part of the school’s most popular clique, populated by three girls named Heather (Shannon Doherty, Lisanne Falke and Kim Walker – plastics eat your heart out). Resenting the high school jungle, Veronica becomes involved with the mysterious new guy J.D (Christian Slater channeling a young Jack Nicholson, it’s all in the eyebrows), who has some pretty interesting ideas on how to deal with high school. The film is satire at its very best, with spectacular dialogue (“Dear diary, my teen angst bullshit now has a body count”) and truly fantastic central performances, Heathers is not a film for the easily offended, but it perfectly sums up some of the more ridiculous aspects of high school culture in a way that still feels relevant today. The only reason it didn’t make the official top five is because it is a satirical depiction of pretty much all the teen movies that were made in the 1980’s, and should thus be judged as a thoroughly different (but equally excellent) beast.

5. Weird Science (1985)

Director: John Hughes

Starring: Anthony Michael Hall, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, Kelly LeBrock

weird-scienceThere is apparently a remake of Weird Science in the works, and if this is true it should be stopped immediately because it is one of those concepts that worked in the 1980’s but is actually sort of weird and outdated and there should be no attempts to redo it. Got it, Universal? A lot of films from the 1980’s have this air of nostalgia and innocence around them that allow them to pull of some pretty creepy concepts (Back to the Future, anyone?), and Weird Science falls into that category. The film tells the story of Gary (Anthony Michael Hall) and Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith), two nerds who create the perfect woman (Kelly LeBrock) on a computer. It really shouldn’t work, but with Hughes writing and direction and Hall and Mitchell-Smith’s adorable performances it does. It’s hardly going to change your life, but Weird Science is a cult classic that makes perfect Friday night Netflix viewing – watch out for an extremely baby faced Robert Downey Jnr. playing bully Ian.

4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

Director: John Hughes

Starring: Matthew Broderick, Mia Sara, Alan Ruck, Jennifer Grey

36_ferris_buellers_day_offWhere to begin really – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is pretty much the embodiment of everything that is so great about 1980’s films – and mainly it’s a whole lot of fun. Chicago teen Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) decides that he fancies a day off school and constructs an increasingly elaborate scheme to remain undetected, getting his girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) and best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) along for the ride. They spend the day getting up to all sorts of shenanigans, from visiting art galleries and restaurants to being part of a parade, all whilst Ferris’ sister (Jennifer Grey) and Student Dean (Jeffery Jones) try to catch him out. What makes the film so great is that it explores some interesting themes whilst still being a fun caper – Ferris may be the fourth wall breaking character of the title, but the film is really about the emotional journey of Cameron. Let’s face it – more people (meaning me) identify with Cameron than Ferris, and his realisation that he has to learn to stand up for himself in order to be happy is something that a lot of teens have to deal with, so it’s nice that John Hughes was around to give a helping hand and prove that strong messages can come in fun packages.

3. The Breakfast Club (1985)

Director: John Hughes

Starring: Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald, Emelio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Allison Sheedy

bender_fist“…In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions: a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal.” Back in 1985 John Hughes made his masterpiece with The Breakfast Club, a film that so perfectly embodies everything he was about as a maker of teen movies and a film that anyone can identify with anyone – and thus, the brat pack was born. Five teenagers are stuck together in the school library for an all-day Saturday detention. All from their own cliques, it seems like they have nothing in common, yet over the space of the day they transcend their respective stereotypes to become THE BREAKFAST CLUB, all while Simple Minds play in the background – it really doesn’t get much more 1980’s than that. Parodied so often, it can be easy to forget how great The Breakfast Club is (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all), and no matter whether you consider yourself to be the athlete (not so much) or the basket case (getting warmer), you’ll find something to love in Hughes’ film.

2. Pretty in Pink (1986)

Director: Howard Deutch

Starring: Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, Andrew McCarthy

Pretty-in-Pink-pretty-in-pink-21215372-500-281I know what you’re thinking, a film on this list NOT made by John Hughes?! But panic not, he wrote Pretty in Pink, so of course his stamp is all over it (thank god). Andie (Molly Ringwald) is a working class girl who has a crush on rich boy Blane (Andrew McCarthy, of course you’re rich when you’re called Blane). Throw into the mix her adoring best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) and Blane’s dickhead friends Benny (Kate Vernon) and Steff (James Spader), along with Andie’s unemployed father (Harry Dean Stanton) and boss/mother figure Iona (Annie Potts) and you have a recipe for some class-A high school d-r-a-m-a. It’s another Hughes classic, and Ringwald is as good a role model as there is with her refusal to change for anyone – us gals can take a lot away from her performance, and even if you don’t agree with the ending (it was actually changed due to the original ending – which arguably makes a lot more sense – didn’t go down well with test audiences) chances are you’ll still go all gooey when Andie gets the guy.

1. St. Elmo’s Fire (1985)

Director: Joel Schumacher (pre-ruining everyone’s lives with Batman and Robin in the 1990s)

Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Emelio Estevez, Rob Lowe, Judd Nelson, Allison Sheedy, Demi Moore, Mare Winningham

St. Elmo's Fire characters, Kevin and JulesHere it is – my number one 1980’s teen movie. Many may disagree, but I love St Elmo’s Fire for a multitude of reasons, and an undying affection for young Rob Lowe is only one of them (equally strong affection for Andrew McCarthy makes two). Telling the story of seven college graduates navigating that tricky period between graduation and starting your real life, the film gets a lot of stick. I feel this is partly due to the fact that after the travesty that was Batman and Robin (1997), Joel Schumacher and his work have a very dark cloud over them. The thing is, much like all 1980’s teen movies, I don’t think its a film that needs to be taken all that seriously. Sure, Demi Moore totally overreacts about losing her job – but as someone who is on the cusp of entering her early twenties I feel pretty sure that my self-absorbed self would probably have a similar reaction – it’s called being young. It’s a coming of age tale that is just so quintessentially 80’s that to hate it isn’t something I can fathom – granted Emelio Estevez’s storyline is a tad creepy and Andie MacDowell is nothing short of awful, but who says it had to be perfect – there are faults with all of the films on this list, but that doesn’t stop me loving and steadfastly defending each and every one.

 

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Film, List, Opinion

5 REMAKES IN THE WORKS

The lowdown on five Hollywood remakes that could be coming your way…

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Hollywood isn’t really a place for original concepts anymore – pretty much any big moneymaker is a remake, reboot or a re-imagining of some description. This can come across as anything from greedy to pointless, and it can really make us cinema-goers quite cynical, but that’s a whole other can of worms. The fact is, there are so many remakes being talked about all the time that it’s hard to know which ones will even see the light of day (getting a movie onto the big screen is a very long and complicated process), but here are five remakes which are in development that you might not know about…

IT: 

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Is it happening?: Good question – the It remake was announced way back in 2009, and it has been a rocky road ever since. The project began life at Warner Bros before being moved over to subsidiary company New Line. Headway seemed to be being made when Cary Fukunaga, the man behind the critically acclaimed first season of True Detective (2014) signed on to direct and the surprising decision to cast young British actor Will Poulter in the iconic role of Pennywise the clown – made famous by Tim Curry – was made. The film was firmly in pre-production, with Fukunaga working on a script alongside Chase Palmer, but was dropped into development hell again when Fukanaga pulled out last year citing studio tampering. Mama (2013) director Andy Muschietti has since been attached to a project, and a new script is reportedly in the works, but it is unclear if or when the film will see the light of day.

Will it be good?: Stephen King adaptions tend to be a bit of a mixed bag – for every The Shining (1980) you’ve got a Bag of Bones (2011) – so this one could go either way. Such a troubled pre-production could have a knock on impact on the final product, and it is hard to predict how it will turn out until the major players are fully confirmed. That said, Poulter has proven his credibility in a range of genres from comedy in We’re the Millers (2013) to drama in The Revenant (2016), so there is no reason that he can’t pull off Pennywise in spite of the inevitable endless comparisons to Curry’s performance.

THE BIRDS:

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Is it happening?: A remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic The Birds has been in talks for years, but developments last year suggest that it might finally be happening. Screencrush reported that Michael Bay is set to produce the film via his production company Platinum Dunes, whilst Dutch director Diederick Van Roojen is currently attached to direct. Platinum Dunes will produce the film with Mandalay and Universal. Whilst this seems like real moves towards the film finally getting made, there is still a long way to go – back in 2007 Naomi Watts was in talks to star with Martin Campbell of Casino Royale (2006) fame in the directors chair, but by 2009 the project had stalled.

Will it be good?: Bay’s production company has been behind numerous horror remakes over the years, from The Amityville Horror to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it would seem that even Hitchcock’s classics aren’t safe. Many horror fans consider The Birds untouchable, and the decision to remake it is one that is unlikely to go down well. Pair this with the fact that it would be being produced by the guy who is responsible for the Transformers franchise and who has a penchant for blowing things up in his movies, and the chances of the remake being any good are decidedly low. On the plus side, Bay isn’t in the directors chair, and Van Roojen may surprise us all by not allowing him to stamp his identity all over the place, but it is probably for the best if this particular remake remains deep in development hell.

CHARLIE’S ANGELS:

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Is it happening?: It certainly looks like it – details are still pretty thin on the ground, but last September The Guardian reported that Elizabeth Banks has signed on to produce and direct a Charlie’s Angels reboot based on the original 1970’s TV series starring Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. Banks is also set to produce the film alongside her husband and production partner Max Handelman, whilst Evan Spiliotopoulos is said to be writing the script, suggesting that the pieces are slowly falling together to make this remake a real possibility.

Will it be good?: There’s every chance it could be. Banks is a hot property in Hollywood right now, making her directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2 to Box Office success last summer, as well as acting in The Lego Movie (2014) and The Hunger Games franchise (2012-15). The original series was based on three women who face institutional sexism in the police force and go to work for the titular Charlie where their skills are put to better use, a premise that still (depressingly) holds real credence. The  Charlie’s Angels film in 2000 starring Lucy Lui, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore was successful enough to spawn a sequel in 2003, proving the the concept also has financial potential. Writer Spiliotopoulos is mostly known for penning a vast array of Disney’s DOV sequels, but he also has credits on the upcoming The Huntsman Winter’s War and the live action Beauty and the Beast, so there’s no reason he can’t pull it off.

A STAR IS BORN:

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Is it happening?: It’s still early days, but it looks like it. The idea for a THIRD remake of the original 1937 film of the same name has been in the pipeline since 2011, when it was reported that Clint Eastwood was set to direct with Beyonce Knowles as the female lead previously played by Janet Ganor, Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand. Negotiations with Beyonce fell through in 2012 and it looked like the project was being put on the back-burner by Warner Bros until last year when it was announced that Bradley Cooper is interested in the project as his directorial debut. As it stands, Cooper has quashed any Beyonce related rumours and looks set to direct, star and co-produce the film.

Will it be good?: It has potential. Cooper is one of Hollywood’s most sought after leading men, so whilst it is almost a given that he will be great in front of the camera, it will be interesting to see what he can achieve in the director’s chair. A strong female lead is an absolute must – will he perhaps try to entice his frequent co-star and friend Jennifer Lawrence into the role? Other than that, it’s hard to know at such an early stage with so few details – will the film be a period or contemporary piece? The story – about a woman who becomes famous as her lover’s career flounders – is universal and could be applied to the modern generation in an interesting way given the right script.

THE CRAFT: 

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Is it happening?: It certainly is. Sony announced plans last year to remake 1996 cult classic The Craft with Leigh Janiak writing and directing. Doug Wick, one of the producers of the original, is on board to co-produce alongside Lucy Fisher, and whilst a cast has yet to be announced the ball seems to be well and truly rolling on the project.

Will it be good?: Again, information is still hard to come by at this stage, but all the indicators point towards the film being in safe hands with Janiak, who is a rising star in the horror genre after her directorial debut Honeymoon in 2014. The female centric original was a supernatural teen film with endless cult appeal, and it seems only right that a rising female director take the helm on the remake. On the downside, it is only ten years since the original came out, and there are a lot of questions about the need for a remake so quickly, if at all.

What remakes are you worried or excited about? Let me know in the comments section:

 

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